“There’s nothing special about Startup Weekend,” said Khalid Smith, education leader for Startup Weekend. “You guys can do this any weekend you want to.” What the 54-hour event did, however, was build a sense of community between nearly 70 developers, designers and educators looking to challenge themselves, as well as education.
Startup Weekend EDU hit the hub, kicking off Friday night. Individuals pitched their ideas to a panel of educators, who would better understand which concepts had the potential to be the most transformative. After deciding which ideas to turn into realities, teams were formed, and the rest of the weekend was spent creating, innovating, thinking, designing and iterating under the watchful eye of mentors and the event organizers: Matthew Mamet, the director of product at Alleyoop; Marissa Lowman, the founder of EdTechup; and Josh Bob, founder of TurnStar.
Seven teams pitched to a panel of judges last night. From a user-driven social learning platform to an app that makes “practicing a foreign language mobile, casual and fun,” the ideas were ones designed to shake up traditional education and fill the gaps in the market.
The weekend’s judging panel was comprised of Andrew Joseph, president and co-founder of TenMarks; Patrick Supanc, president of Alleyoop; Celine Coggins, founder and CEO of Teach Plus; Adam Miller, co-founder of Abroad101; Stephen Marcus, founder and CEO of Matchbox; Bill Triant, vice president of development and innovation at Pearson; and Tom Egan, associate at LaunchCapital.
“It’s clear you guys have put in a lot of energy and a lot of work over the last 54 hours,” said Supanc, before announcing the winner. Mamet said he enjoyed watching teams with passion for problem-solving turn their solutions into a reality.
After deliberation, it was Purple Suitcase who was awarded the first-place spot. Founded by Teresa Chope and Heidi Johnson, Purple Suitcase allows children ages seven through 14 and their families to virtually travel from Boston to Bangkok and Moscow to Madrid. Users can choose their suitcase and decorate it, “fly” to their chosen city, and then play games, take quizzes and sightsee throughout the way. “Discover the world one click at a time,” Chope urged while pitching.
Chope, with three children of her own, said she has a passion for travel, understanding “how transformative it can be.” Although the seeds of the Purple Suitcase had been planted before Startup Weekend, Chope admitted she participated to see if there were people she could bring onto the team.
“What I loved was the collaborative nature of everyone,” she said, later admitting she “didn’t really know if [the Purple Suitcase] was going to be viable in education.” So it was Startup Weekend that gave her just the confirmation she needed to move forward.
Those was participated in Startup Weekend understand, as Smith said, “entrepreneurship has a place within innovation in education.” The hope is, following the weekend, more entrepreneurs receive the validation and motivation Chope did and continue to challenge, and improve, education.